2006 - Familiar Face Returns

2006 - Familiar Face Returns
7-9 record, 3 of 4 in AFC East, 12 of 16 in AFC, 21 of 32 in NFL
To replace Tom Donahoe Ralph Wilson turned to a familiar face - 82-year old Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy.  Once Levy arrived he decided to keep Mularkey on as head coach but one week later Mularkey resigned.  With the GM who hired him gone, Mularkey did not feel comfortable reporting to Levy and felt his control would be affected.  Levy turned to former Bills coaching assistant and 1999 NFL Coach of the Year Dick Jauron.  Special teams coach Bobby April and O Line coach Jim McNally, both highly respected throughout the league, were the only coaches that stayed over the regime change.  In the offseason, the Bills lost DT Sam Adams, TE Mark Campbell, DB Lawyer Milloy, WR Eric Moulds, LB Jeff Posey, OL Trey Teague, RB Anthony Thomas and OL Mike Williams in a rebuilding effort that featured 21 new players on Buffalo's roster come the season opener.  To replace the losses, Buffalo signed WR Peerless Price, TE Robert Royal, OL Melvin Fowler, and DT Larry Triplett.  In the first round of the draft Buffalo selected safety Donte Whitner at 8 overall.  The Bills then traded second and third round picks to move back into the first round and select DT John McCargo.  In the third they selected CB Ashton Youboty and in the fourth S Ko Simpson.  In the fifth round Buffalo added DT Kyle Williams and OL Brad Butler and in the sixth LB Keith Ellison.  After the draft the Bills continued their streak of undrafted free agent finds by signing LB John Digiorgio.

The Bills began the year with a close loss to New England.  On the first play of the game Takeo Spikes roared back from his Achilles injury with a vengeance, striping Tom Brady of the ball that London Fletcher took if for a quick score.  Buffalo jumped out to a 17-7 lead in the second quarter but couldn't score again, falling 19-17 on a Losman safety in the fourth quarter.  In week two Buffalo hounded rusty QB Daunte Culpepper, sacking him 7 times - 3 from Ryan Denney alone - in a 16-6 win over Miami.  In week 3, despite 328 passing yards from J.P. Losman and 150 rushing yards from McGahee, Buffalo lost to the Jets in large part to three turnovers.  A win over Minnesota the next week even Buffalo's record at 2-2 but in week 5 the Bills allowed the Bears to score 41 unanswered points to start the game in a 40-7 annihilation.  The next week Losman was sacked five times and the Bills lost to Detroit 20-17, dropping the team to 2-4.  After a 28-6 drubbing at the hands of the Patriots Dick Jauron made a dramatic move during the bye week, reshuffling his offensive line.

Mike Gandy moved from left tackle to left guard. Jason Peters flipped from right tackle to left tackle - a position at which he would earn two Pro Bowl berths in later seasons. Rookie seventh-round draft pick Terrance Pennington took over at right tackle; while starting C Melvin Fowler and RG Chris Villarrial (with Duke Preston as an injury fill-in) remained, Tutan Reyes found himself on the bench.

With the new offensive line in place, Jauron hoped J.P. Losman wouldn't be running for his life or getting sacked as much.  Buffalo beat the Packers 24-10 but Losman was still sacked 5 times on just 20 pass attempts.  The 8-0 Colts hosted Buffalo the next week and Buffalo came within a points of pulling the upset, 17-16.  Anthony Thomas topped one hundred yards rushing in the start for Buffalo and Losman was again sacked on 25% of his drop backs going down 4 times in 16 attempts.  Against the Texans the next week, Buffalo's offensive line would hold it together.  Late in the fourth quarter, Buffalo's defense held the Texans offense allowing them to take only 33 seconds off the clock.  Buffalo got the ball back with 1:44 remaining and J.P. Losman drove the team down the field.  With 8 seconds left, Losman hit Peerless Price in the back of the end zone for the winning score.  (Personally, I remember thinking this was Losman's watershed moment and he was finally gonna step up and be the QB of the future.)  On the day Losman dropped back 40 times and was sacked only twice - a huge improvement for the reshuffled O Line.  The next week the Bills won another game in the final seconds when Rian Lindell kicked a 42-yard field goal as time expired to give Buffalo the 27-24 win.  For the first time all season, Losman was not sacked once in the game and Roscoe Parrish returned a punt for a score to help the cause.  The Bills were 5-6 and surging now, having won 3 of 4 since the bye and narrowly losing to the still-undefeated Colts.  The high powered Chargers offense came to Orchard Park and had its way with the Bills defense.  Ladanian Tomlinson rushed for 178 yards and 2 TDs, one a 51-yard rush to put SD up 10-0 early.   Antonio Gates caught 7 balls for 90 yards and a score.  The Bills offense looked shaky, losing four turnovers, in a game Buffalo was never really in. A week 14 win in New York featuring a 77-yard bomb from J.P. to Lee and a 21-0 shutout of Miami featuring three TD passes by Losman evened the Bills record at 7-7.  The Bills hosted the Titans in Week 16 holding slim playoff hopes and led 29-20 heading into the fourth quarter.  Vince Young led the Titans to 10 fourth quarter points and former Bill Travis Henry ground the clock in a Tennessee win that eliminated the Bills from the playoff chase.  In the last week of the season the offense could muster only a 44-yard TD pass from Losman to Evans.  Losman became the first Bills QB to start every game since Bledsoe did in 2002 and became just the fifth Bills QB to pass for 3000 yards (Bledsoe, Flutie, Kelly, Ferguson). 

The Bills offense was anemic, ranking 30 in yards gained and 23 in points.  The passing and rushing offense were 28 and 27 respectively under offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild.  McGahee came up 10 yards short of a thousand and started only 14 games due to injury.  In his first year without wing man Moulds, Lee Evans caught 82 passes and 1292 yards (5th in franchise history) as the unquestioned #1 receiver and Losman buddy.  No other receiver topped 50 catches.  London Fletcher once again recorded one hundred tackles and led the 18 ranked defense.  The Bills were stout against the pass finishing 7 overall but the rush defense was poor allowing the 28th most rushing yards.  Schobel once again led the team in sacks registering 14, the highest number for a Bills' defender since Bryce Paup's 17.5 in 1995.  Schobel was rewarded with his first trip to the Pro Bowl.  Joining him was punter Brian Moorman who was also named an All-Pro for the second consecutive year. Andre Reed joined the Bill's Wall of Fame in 2006.  Reed is the franchise leader in every major receiving category and played for Buffalo from 1985-1999.

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